Earth Notes: On the Zoom H1n "Handy" Field Recorder: Review

Updated 2020-12-27 17:20 GMT.
By Damon Hart-Davis.
Finally time to get my own portable audio recorder!
Zoom H1n landscape
A small portable field recorder capable of stereo 16-bit 48ksps lossless recording to gather material for my podcast, bat detection, etc!

Review

Initial review on its way...

2020-12-18: Zoom (Not That One)

I think I still have somewhere my previous attempt to put together a no-moving-parts field audio recorder and mic, USB connected, many years ago. Not very successful. What audio I have collected in the field has often been with a camera, sometimes in combination with video or stills.

For the EOU Earth Notes podcast I upped my game significantly with the Blue Yeti mic and 16-bit 48ksps stereo recording.

And then I got to borrow an Olympus LS-P4 field recorder (thanks Deniz): Diarycast - Conscious Uncouping - Travel. That showed my what could be done with a good, compact device. (And I haven't filled its 8GB internal storage yet, five months later!)

Lockdown notwithstanding, the Olympus loan wasn't meant to be a long one. And after months of reasonable use, I think I will have a continuing requirement for more of the same.

On I ordered from Amazon for £82.10 (ex-VAT) a Zoom H1n/UK Handy Recorder, and for £9.45 (ex-VAT) a YOUSHARES Zoom H1n Recorder Foam & Furry Indoor/Outdoor Windscreen Muff, Pop Filter/Wind Cover Shield Fits Zoom H1n & H1.

Postage was free, the order total was £91.55 including VAT, and delivery was on .

I am using an 8GB micro-SD card that I have to hand. The H1n didn't understand what was on it (a RPi image probably!) and offered to format it, which seems to have worked. The internal store is very limited.

A pair of alkaline AAA cells is supplied with the Zoom, but I have some NiMH rechargeables on their way. (The Zoom will accommodate alkaline, NiMH and lithium cells.)

(For reference, the Olympus LS-P4 appears to be readily available for ~£140 including VAT and postage.)

2020-12-21: Initial Impressions

muff shield wind 4 DHD

Total seems to have been a busy day, so not much time to do much after the H1n arrived early afternoon.

I put in the AAA cells, and it took a few button presses to set the date and time, and a couple more to get the recording mode to 16-bit 48ksps lossless WAV.

I took a couple of very short voice samples (with the Zoom mics pointing away from me), one bare and one with the fake fur muff on.

I then took my one-mile 20-minute exercise walk around the cemetery carrying the H1n pointing in front of me, with the fur muff in place. I had adjusted the recording level with the dial at the top of the H1n (much much easier than the LS-P4) as suggested so that the recording level is kinda sorta half-scale (-12dB).

I note that the H1n feels a little less solid and robust than the metal-case LS-P4.

The weights seem similar though the LS-P4 is specified as 75g and the H1n as 60g (main unit only). Note that the former requires one AAA, the latter two.

The H1n is also significantly larger than the LS-P4 (13.75 × 5.0 × 3.2cm vs 10.9 x 4.0 x 1.4cm), especially the bulbous head, which would make it difficult to put in my jeans pocket as I felt that I safely could with the LS-P4.

The H1n's UI (eg the menus) seems better than the LS-P4's, and generally more intuitive so far.

2020-12-22: First Light

The moment of truth: trying to get yesterday's recordings off the H1n!

I have found a USB-A to micro-USB cable and plugged one end in at the H1n, the other and my MacBook Air. I turned on the H1n and selected the "card reader" option presented, and the Mac now shows an H1N_SD device in the file system, hurrah!

A little exploring into the H1n's file system shows three WAV files:

% ls -al /Volumes/H1N_SD/STEREO/FOLDER01/
total 454400
drwxrwxrwx  1 dhd  staff      32768 21 Dec 13:18 .
drwxrwxrwx  1 dhd  staff      32768 21 Dec 13:18 ..
-rwxrwxrwx  1 dhd  staff     817920 21 Dec 13:19 ZOOM0001.WAV
-rwxrwxrwx  1 dhd  staff     625152 21 Dec 13:26 ZOOM0002.WAV
-rwxrwxrwx  1 dhd  staff  231084032 21 Dec 13:49 ZOOM0003.WAV

I have copied them to the Mac to listen to them with Audacity. Under a minute for over 200MB, I think.

I have changed the filename format for future recordings to be date/time-based.

Access to the settings menu is by holding down the 'delete' button while turning the device on.

While here I have also set an auto-off time of 5 minutes, and did a "quick test" of the SD card, which passed.

Here are the very first two raw WAV files as-is!

4s "ZOOM0001" Uploaded . Download stereo WAV clip 799kB.
3s "ZOOM0002" Uploaded . Download stereo WAV clip 611kB.

The third recording is 20 minutes and 231MB, or ~11MB/min. So maybe the 8GB SD card can accommodate ~12h of this spec lossless recording.

The mediainfo untility reports:

% mediainfo ~/Downloads/FOLDER01/ZOOM0003.WAV
General
Complete name                            : / ... /FOLDER01/ZOOM0003.WAV
Format                                   : Wave
File size                                : 220 MiB
Duration                                 : 20 min 3 s
Overall bit rate mode                    : Constant
Overall bit rate                         : 1 536 kb/s
Producer                                 : ZOOM Handy Recorder H1n
Encoded date                             : 2020-12-21 13:29:26
Encoding settings                        : A=PCM,F=48000,W=16,M=stereo,T=ZOOM Handy Recorder H1n

Audio
Format                                   : PCM
Format settings                          : Little / Signed
Codec ID                                 : 1
Duration                                 : 20 min 3 s
Bit rate mode                            : Constant
Bit rate                                 : 1 536 kb/s
Channel(s)                               : 2 channels
Sampling rate                            : 48.0 kHz
Bit depth                                : 16 bits
Stream size                              : 220 MiB (100%)

(The muff seems to have done a very good job suppressing wind noise!)

The FLAC file spat out by Audacity is ~100MB, ie less than half the size.

Here it is, as FLAC, MP3 stereo and mono:

1203s "20201221T13:30Z 1 mile 20 minute exercise walk around the cemetery" Uploaded . Download stereo MP3 clip 26943kB (may not be available in data-saver/lite mode), download low-bandwidth mono MP3 clip 6047kB, hi-fi stereo lossless clip 98828kB.

It's good enough to be turned into a bonus ambient podcast episode...

Here is a squirrel heard on today's walk (recording 4 on the H1n):

25s "squirrel grey vocalisations and birdsong 20201222 Kingston London England 1 DHD" Uploaded . Download stereo MP3 clip 550kB (may not be available in data-saver/lite mode), download low-bandwidth mono MP3 clip 103kB, hi-fi stereo lossless clip 1838kB.

So far, so good!

2020-12-27: Side by Side

field recorders Olympus LS P4 and Zoom H1n 2 DHD

Today I took some very unscientific side-by-side captures in the field (well, the cemetery) on my walk today. These are completely unedited, and the recorders had the last settings I'd used on them, so recording levels don't match for example.

I equipped the LS-P4 with the spare (foam) muff that I have for the H1n, to even things up a little.

First pair: LS-P4 then H1n:

32s "201227_0138" Uploaded . Download stereo FLAC clip 1917kB.
32s "201227 115344" Uploaded . Download stereo WAV clip 6077kB.

Second pair: LS-P4 then H1n:

39s "201227_0139" Uploaded . Download stereo FLAC clip 2287kB.
43s "201227 115608" Uploaded . Download stereo WAV clip 8148kB.

I meant to take three pairs of samples but somehow turned on the H1n when I stopped the LS-P4. Cue 45 minutes (500MB!) of talking to myself, bumbling aroug the house, etc, until I found the H1n still on in my coat pocket in the hall. I'm not admitting to any of this, but the H1n seems to be quite sensitive!

I had also taken a few clips on the H1n solo over the last couple of days.

Jackdaws:

3s "20201223T1118Z jackdaw calls in Bonner Hill Road cemetery Kingston London England" Uploaded . Download stereo MP3 clip 69kB, hi-fi stereo lossless clip 170kB.

Crows:

20s "20201223T1114Z crows crowing in Bonner Hill Road cemetery Kingston London England" Uploaded . Download stereo MP3 clip 448kB, hi-fi stereo lossless clip 1592kB.
12s "20201225T1405Z crows crowing in Bonner Hill Road cemetery Kingston London England" Uploaded . Download stereo MP3 clip 267kB, hi-fi stereo lossless clip 857kB.
30s "20201225T1410Z crows crowing in Bonner Hill Road cemetery Kingston London England" Uploaded . Download stereo MP3 clip 644kB, hi-fi stereo lossless clip 2050kB.

IN PROGRESS

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